👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
Send your thoughts, suggestions, or complaints to:
1/ Special Counsel Robert Mueller has launched a grand jury to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and whether Trump or any of his team colluded during the campaign. A grand jury will allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. The decision to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses. Trump has denied any collusion with Russia, calling the investigation a “witch hunt.” (Wall Street Journal / CNN)
2/ Mueller has turned his attention to Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia. Federal investigators have widened their focus on possible financial crimes, which could offer a more concrete path toward potential prosecution than the broader questions of collusion in the 2016 campaign. Trump previously warned Mueller that his financial dealings were a red line that he shouldn’t cross, despite Mueller being authorized to investigate matters that “arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” (CNN)
3/ Top FBI officials could be asked to testify against Trump. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the highest-ranking members of the bureau that they should consider themselves possible witnesses in any investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice. McCabe acknowledged that he’s also a potential witness in the probe, as well as the investigation into whether Team Trump colluded with the Russians. (Vox)
4/ The Senate Judiciary Committee is introducing a bipartisan bill to protect Robert Mueller and ensure the integrity of independent investigations. The bill would allow any special counsel for the Department of Justice to challenge their removal in court, with a review by a three-judge panel within 14 days of the challenge. Lindsey Graham said that he was working on a similar bill that would prevent the firing of a special counsel without judicial review. (CBS News)
5/ Congressional investigators want the phone records related to Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer. They want “all relevant documents” connected to the people before, during, and after the meeting, including Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. It’s unclear if it’s the Senate Intelligence Committee or the House Intelligence Committee seeking the records. Senator James Risch, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, “I guarantee you there were phone calls in addition to those emails, and I want to hear all of it before I answer the question you put to me.” (CBS News)
6/ Trump blamed Congress for the poor US relations with Russia, a day after he imposed new sanctions, which he called flawed and unconstitutional. Trump described America’s relationship with Russia on Twitter as “an all-time and very dangerous low.” John McCain shot back that “our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies.” (New York Times / The Hill)
Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low. You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 3, 2017
7/ Trump urged the Mexican president to stop publicly saying that he would never pay for the border wall, during their January 27 call. “You cannot say that to the press,” Trump repeatedly told Enrique Peña Nieto. “If you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”
The next day, Trump called Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, which was even more contentious and the conversation immediately devolved over a US agreement to accept refugees from Australian detention centers. “I hate taking these people,” Trump said. “I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people” (Washington Post)
- Transcripts of Trump’s calls with Mexico and Australia. (Washington Post)
8/ Trump criticized his military advisers because “we aren’t winning, we are losing” the Afghanistan war. Trump directed his frustration at Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying Trump had given the military authority months ago to make advances in Afghanistan and yet the US was continuing to lose ground. (NBC News)
9/ The White House conceded that the Boy Scouts never called to say his was the best speech ever. Trump told the Wall Street Journal last week that “I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” The Boy Scouts of America, however, said it was not aware of any call from its leadership to Trump. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, however, said that “multiple members of the Boy Scouts leadership” had praised Trump’s speech, but the conversations “simply didn’t take place over a phone call, they happened in person.” (New York Times)
10/ Stephen Miller told CNN’s Jim Acosta that his question “is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you’ve ever said.” The White House senior policy adviser was responding to a question about Trump’s endorsement of a Senate bill that seeks to cut legal immigration to the US in half. He accused Acosta of “cosmopolitan bias” before apologizing “if things got heated.” (Politico / Washington Post)
11/ Federal prosecutors subpoenaed Kushner Cos. for its use of an investment-for-immigration program. The company drew attention in May for a marketing campaign that solicited Chinese investors to put up $500,000 for green card eligibility, known as the EB-5 program. The campaign mentioned Jared Kushner and used a video clip and photo of Trump in its pitch. (Wall Street Journal)
Become a member.
Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.